Saturday, July 6, 2019

Vocational vs career teachers

With teacher pay improving over the years, teaching is a competitive career with other professions.  A teacher can rapidly be on a six figure salary and be trained on an ongoing basis with career options going ahead.

The profession is changing from one which was fundamentally filled with vocational teachers, who entered teaching because they had a love of teaching and a desire to teach, to a profession with a mix of vocational teachers and those who enter it as a long term career, one of the few that are predicted to last for the next 20 years through technological change.

This is a not necessarily a bad thing, but it does raise a challenge for vocational teachers as they are vulnerable in the system.  By vocational teachers not targeting advancement, school run the risk of dissatisfied vocational teachers who are unaware of the gauntlet required for advancement - they will advance slower than career teachers.

For instance, a teacher focuses on their student cohorts and their craft.  Over many years they become a passionate and great classroom teacher.  They see a career teacher that is not as good a teacher, does not understand the craft required to become truly great at what they do but that has targeted the KPIs that are required for advancement.  The career teacher can talk eduspeak, self promote actively, are involved in projects that meet STAR objectives, actively seek promotional positions, understand how to write a CV and answer interview questions, have been at multiple schools over a short period - burn bright but over short periods.  Once the balance tips towards career teachers (are we there now? Panel training indicates we are!), this becomes the model for advancement.

The question I ask myself is does this help kids get better in classes?  Does this promote better mentoring of young teachers?

There's a little voice in the back of my head that says - "yep, but vocational teachers, the passionate ones can also be the flaky, argumentative, the most painful teachers to manage as they are needy and require constant guidance compared to the focused teachers on career progression."  And I hear you little voice, but when I look at exceptional student outcomes, being 50% in doesn't cut it compared to what some of these teachers can achieve.  An evidence base shows this over and over again.

Are we, by encouraging a career based approach, turning our vocational teachers away from their passionate, "this is my life", approach towards a more career based (I do this for the wage and the six hour day) sustainable and minimal intervention approach because it is easier to manage and less likely to cause management pain, even if the evidence shows that it has lower student outcomes?

If this is the case, and to a lesser or greater degree I believe it is,  we need to re-evaluate how we remunerate teachers and the merit system that in its current form is encouraging a change to a career workforce rather than a vocational one and that where career satisfaction is through advancement, not through student achievement.  A teacher for life, cared for by the system, developing their skills, recognised by the community for what they can do, moving passionately with changes in pedagogy required and realising that they are blessed for being involved with a system that guides our youth not for the career progression that they are not getting.

How to get teaching to that point is an interesting intellectual question.

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